Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator and Seanad Spokesperson for Health, Colm Burke, has today (Monday) called for the Minister for Finance to give serious consideration to the introduction of tax incentives to help retain junior doctors (NCHDs) in the Irish hospital system.
“As a result of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive the vast majority of NCHDs have suffered a substantial cut in income. The basic salary of an intern (1st year NCHD) is €31,000 per annum before tax. Most NCHDs were able to earn additional income from overtime and the cut in basic salary was not a real issue. However, now because of the full implementation of EU Working Time Directive earning capacity has decreased.
“A large percentage of doctors graduate from university heavily in debt, especially those who studied medicine through the Graduate Entry Programme and paid full fees. These graduates pay on average between €14,000 and €16,000 in fees per annum for four years. Banks provided loans of €25,000 per annum (€16,000 fees plus €9,000 living allowance), amounting to a total of €100,000.
“These doctors cannot now service the repayments on their loans because of the huge reduction in income. If the issue is not addressed many more Irish medical graduates will leave.
“I would support the introduction of a system whereby those who have paid full college fees would be entitled to write off the interest on their loans against tax. Every person who borrows money to start up a business is entitled to write off the interest against tax; so why should it be different for hospital doctors?
“The write off of interest would of course only be available to those who remain working in an Irish hospital. It is just one of many changes that must be introduced to encourage young Irish doctors to stay here. I have already received a detailed submission from NCHDs and have forwarded it to the Taoiseach, Minister for Health, and Minister for Finance for their consideration.”